In April 1884, Pissarro moved to Eragny, a hamlet on the banks of the Epte that would remain his home--and the principal inspiration for his art--until his death almost two decades later. His financial situation had become increasingly dire since the crash of the Paris stock market in 1882, which almost ruined Durand-Ruel, and he had a growing brood to support--four young children at home, plus a baby on the way. For almost a year, Pissarro scoured the countryside near Paris in search of a large house at moderate rent, with appealing landscape motifs close at hand. When he visited Eragny, some forty-five miles northwest of the capital in the Vexin region, he was immediately smitten. "Yes, we've made up our minds on Eragny-sur-Epte," he wrote to his eldest son Lucien. "The house is superb and inexpensive; a thousand francs, with garden and meadow. It is two hours from Paris. I found the region much more beautiful than Compiègne" (quoted in J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, op. cit., vol. I, p. 499).
Within days of settling at Eragny, Pissarro was hard at work. "I haven't been able to resist painting, so beautiful are the views all around my garden," he wrote to Durand-Ruel (quoted in ibid., p. 185). Throughout the spring, summer, and fall of 1884, he ranged widely over the countryside near his new home, working at his rolling easel. He depicted the village center of Eragny, with its picturesque church and manor house, and he crossed a small footbridge over the Epte to work in the neighboring hamlets of Bazincourt and Thierceville. He delighted in painting the expansive fields, gently rolling hills, and meandering river banks within a single square mile of his new home, and he also painted his very first views of the meadow just beyond his property, which would become one of the seminal motifs of his late career.
Pissarro painted the present scene during the early fall of 1884, when some of the trees retained their green and others were ablaze in red, orange, and gold; it was acquired by Durand-Ruel at the end of October. The canvas depicts a small wash-house on the banks of the Epte at Bazincourt, where local women could launder their clothes. The rustic structure appears in a second, smaller painting from the same year, as well as a single canvas from 1900, now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 760 and 1323). Unlike Pissarro's well-known view of the wash-house at Port-Marly from 1872, which focuses on the economic life of a bustling stretch of the Seine, Le lavoir de Bazincourt is a scene of utter tranquility (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, no. 229; Musée d'Orsay, Paris). The wash-house is tucked inconspicuously behind the trees, and almost the whole canvas is given over to the profusion of multi-hued foliage and its reflection in the gently rippling surface of the river below. Although Pissarro's attention to the play of light over the tranquil landscape is quintessentially Impressionist, he has forsaken the free, painterly handling of the Impressionist plein-air sketch in favor of uniformly small, evenly distributed, and carefully controlled touches of pigment, paving the way for his enthusiastic embrace of Neo-Impressionism the very next year.
During the ensuing two decades, Pissarro continued to draw inexhaustible inspiration from the landscape in and around Eragny. He painted the countryside in all seasons and at all times of day, frequently describing the weather and light conditions in minute detail in his letters. He returned to the same spots in the landscape at intervals of days, weeks, or even years, varying his viewpoint to produce the impression of remarkable richness and diversity within an extremely limited stretch of terrain. Joachim Pissarro has concluded, "His representations of these fields and gardens constitute the most spectacularly intense pictorial effort to 'cover' a particular space in his career... His infrequent travels always brought him back to Eragny with renewed resources, fresh ideas, and an eagerness to paint the same and yet ever different locations once again" (Camille Pissarro, New York, 1993, pp. 225 and 241).